As more and more Australians explore ever further afield in motorhomes and recreational vehicles, many are discovering the benefits of supplementary air suspensions in handling the safety and stability challenges of long-distance exploration over diverse surfaces.
The issue is a growing one as Australia's RV production touches 30-year highs, with more than 20,000 RVs and caravans now being produced each year, many of which impose additional loads on standard vehicle suspensions through taller and heaver bodies and by towing caravans, boats and trailers.
One happy motorhome owner with Airbag Man's Ride-Rite supplementary air suspension fitted to his 7.7m long by 3.3 m high Jayco Conquest is John McGaven, who has toured extensively in the Mercedes 516 Sprinter-based vehicle, taking it from his home base in Brisbane as far South as Mildura and as far north as Darwin.
It was during such extensive travel over highways, byways and national parks before he fitted the helper suspension that John experienced some issues with rocking and rolling of the van when under way – possibly due to the weight and height of the vehicle as configured for his needs.
McGaven stated: "It came to a head when we went up the Carnarvon Gorge and, even on a moderately corrugated surface, it was rocking and rolling all over the place. It got so bad I had to stop and let it settle down. I thought "I can't put up with this" and that's when we decided to go with Ride-Rite suspension from Airbag Man."
Airbag Man is Australasia's leading manufacturer and supplier of air suspension products for the commercial, industrial and recreational markets, incorporating the world's No 1 air springs from Firestone. In addition to pure air suspensions and no-maintenance Load-Up kits, Airbag Man engineers Ride-Rite kits for leaf spring vehicles and Coil-Rite kits for coil spring vehicles.
The range encompasses virtually all popular 2wd and 4wd vehicles , light and medium trucks, pickup vehicles, SUVs and vans from Australia, Asia, the US and Europe.
Ride-Rite kits - featuring the same type of tough Firestone air springs used underneath semi trailers – fit between vehicle chassis' and leaf springs to absorb the increasing weight of loads that cause vehicles to sag or lean or produce the rocking and rolling experienced by McGaven.
This imbalance can result in hazardous driving conditions and wear and tear on the vehicle's tyres, suspension and frame.
Ride-Rite springs work with the existing suspension to re-level loaded vehicles to their ideal configuration, which is with frame and body parallel to the axle, as in an unloaded vehicle. The kits have benefits when the vehicle is loaded or empty, because the air pressure takes the strain off existing metal springs, preventing sagging and helping them to last longer.
Not only are the Ride-Rite kits designed to give better ride and handling, but also their air springs can be inflated to different pressures to cope with uneven loads, varying weights and towing. Many travellers carry toolboxes, generators, batteries, motorcycles or camping materials permanently located on one side or corner of the vehicle, or in a trailer, said Airbag Man Managing Director Richard Clamp.
"While John McGaven's particular issue was eliminating the immediate problem of rocking and rolling, the type of kit fitted to his vehicle also offers ongoing safety advantages," said Clamp.
"Air-levelled vehicles achieve steering and braking benefits through evenly poised vehicles that corner flat and true, don't dive dangerously under braking, don't sag and drag in the tail under towing (and don't shine their lights up into the face of oncoming traffic because of suspension loads!). The bolt-on kit fitted to McGaven's vehicle was specifically engineered for straightforward use with his particular vehicle type."
"The improvement was immediate," said McGaven, whose vehicle is used during trips extending from a few days to 4-6 weeks as far afield as Darwin and Mildura.
"It's really smooth over all surfaces now - and stable too," McGaven continues.
"You even notice the difference coming up the highway on your way home from work. When a truck goes past that used to nearly blow you over before, now it doesn't even move. We're very pleased with it."